Ateles geoffroyiCentral American spider monkey

Geographic Range

The black-handed spider monkey is found along both coasts of Mexico from Tamaulipas in the northeast and Jalisco in the west south to northwestern Colombia.


Ateles geoffroyi inhabits mature rainforest and montane forest.

Physical Description

Head and body length ranges from 305 to 630mm, and tail length from 635 to 840mm. With respest to body length, Ateles geoffroyi has extremely long limbs and tail. The head is small and the muzzle substantial. The upper fur is black, brown, or reddish and the face is often marked with a pale mask of unpigmented skin around the eyes and muzzle. The arms and feet are dark and the underparts paler (white, pale brown, reddish, or buff). Female spider monkeys have an enlarged clitoris that resembles the penis of males.

  • Average mass
    7267.5 g
    256.12 oz


Ateles geoffroyi does not appear to have a regular breeding season. Female black-handed spider monkeys have an estrous cycle of 24 to 27 days; mating is restricted to a period of two to three days. Gestation lasts 226 to 232 days and one young is born. Ovulation is suppressed by lactation and births occur at two to four year intervals. Males are sexually mature in five years and females in four. The longest recorded captive lifespan is 33 years.

  • Breeding interval
    Births occur at two to four year intervals
  • Breeding season
    Black-handed spider monkeys breed year round.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    226 to 232 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1825 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    1826 days


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    47.1 years


These animals are social and tend to form groups of approximately thirty individuals. Groups of up to 100 have been reported. For the most part, these large groups split into smaller subgroups to forage and only for a few weeks out of the year is the whole group together. Group size varies with habitat type and seems to depend largely on the productivity of the area.

These spider monkeys live mainly in the top of the tree canopy where they forage diurnally. They tend to feed heavily in the early morning and to rest for the remainder of the day. These monkeys are among the most agile of the primates and are often seen hanging by one limb or by the tail, which essentially functions as a fifth limb. They walk nimbly along the upper surfaces of branches and are able to pick things up with their tails.

Black-handed spider monkeys "bark" when threatened and often throw branches, jump up and down, and shake tree limbs when approached by humans. They emit a sound similar to a whinny when they are separated from one another.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

These monkeys eat mainly ripe friut and less frequently leaves and flowers. They may also eat some nuts, seeds, insects, arachnids, and eggs.

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Spider monkeys are a source of food for many Central and South American peoples.

Conservation Status

This monkey is listed as CITES Appendix I, US-ESA endangered. Apparently it is tolerant of some logging but depends upon large areas of tall forest. It is hunted for food and is locally extinct from most accessible areas. It's large group numbers and noisy habits make this species easy to find.

Other Comments

Some researchers believe that the four allopatric species of Ateles, A. geoffroyi, A. fuscipes, A. belzebuth, and A. paniscus, are all subspecies belonging to the same species, A. paniscus.


Antonia Gorog (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Emmons, Louise H. (1990). Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

Hill, W.C. (1960). Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy Vol. 4, Cebidae, Part A, Edinburgh at the University Press, Edinburgh.

Macdonald, David. (1984). The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Facts on File Publications, New York.

Nowak, Ronald M. and Paradiso, John L. (1983). Walker's Mammals of the World Vol 1, 4th edition, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.